HCI vs SAN: Which one is preferable?

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Today, we will be focusing on the most repeated comparison of all times “Hyper Converged Storage vs SAN.”

Introduction to HCI

Hyper-converged infrastructure or HCI is defined as a virtual approach used for conventional hardware setups. It is best utilized for modernizing the most common hardware-defined systems by virtualizing every element. This software-based architecture rationally binds all essential network system components, for instance, storage resources. It is a well-known IT infrastructure for merging data-centered servers and storage with a distributed environment. And then it starts working as a cohesive unit. 

Furthermore, it links data servers with hardware devices and software layers to re-vitalize the most popular networking approaches and systems.

Introduction to SAN

Storage Area Network or SAN is a type of computer network used by organizations for providing block-level data storage. Tape libraries and disk arrays are the main types of storage that SANs are used for access. SANs have dedicated storage devices in a networking system with no links with the local area network (LAN). They have used a layer of dedicated devices for storage which allows the system to work more coherently. This also helps better access and manage data storage as they have no links whatsoever with the LANs. 

They allow efficient data storage and dedicated access for the backup of any such lost data and its monitoring. It is a mixture of hardware and software and initially originates from the data-centric mainframe architectures. 

Working of HCI

Let’s start Hyper Converged Storage vs SAN from the basics…

Some previous means of networking included eclectic mixes of hardware from various vendors and combined to form a rather chaotic, in-efficient working system. The consequence of such an architecture often results in a complicated and inadequate working networking system that proves to be a means of needless, chaotic, and confusing results on the end of the IT staff of an organization. 

A hyper-converged infrastructure or an HCI helps to solve this problem. It allows solving some of the most baffling modern-day networking issues. It provides optimal performance and helps in replacing fractured systems with new ones. It does all this by providing scalable and flexible virtualized resources for data storage, computing, and management – all under one roof. 

However, there is a lot to dig into beyond the basic premise about such hyper-converged infrastructures. Following are some of those points: 

Software and Hardware Deployment: 

It provides high levels of productivity and optimization, allowing hardware devices to better integrate with the systems and increase enhanced performance abundantly. It can also prove vital when high performance is needed in data storage and management. Some examples of hardware-based HCI are HP and DELL VX rails. It can also be used as a software-defined system used for virtualizing and managing already present hardware resources. This allows the organizations to gain more and more benefits without further installing new hardware devices. Microsoft Azure Stack is a platform to get such HCI software.

Integrated Approach: 

HCIs can provide an integrated approach towards hyper-convergence, which is a somewhat naive and traditional method. The appliances of the whole system are singled out, and then each of them is connected just like a dot making a line. This type of approach offers high speed and productivity. 

Disaggregated Approach:

This HCI method is relatively new and is being used in some places. It mainly involves a disaggregated approach, and rather than combining all the components, it makes every part run on its own and do its job. The resources are divided into modules, and all the different modules are unified together.

Working of SAN

Continuing the debate on Hyper Converged Storage vs SAN, Software Area Networks (SANs) have their own integrated networking devices which provide the data storage for such networking systems. These devices are called SAN switches and are used to access the networking systems. Inside a whole SAN system, many devices are interconnected with each other and form the basis of a bigger layer to the entire system. Following are the major components of a Storage Area Network or SAN:

Host Layer:

The most primitive component of a SAN is the host layers. These servers at the system’s back-end provide access to the whole SAN and its networks. These servers contain host adapters, cards used as firmware that run on the device and are piled onto the motherboard. Using these host adapters, the operating system communicates with the SAN. Such host layers are also used in fiber deployment systems. 

Storage Layer:

The various devices used to store data inside a SAN are said to be the storage layer of the SAN. They include a vast array of hard disks and magnetic tapes. This storage layer is the most crucial and integral part of the system as it is the basis of all the system’s storage. 

Fabric Layer:

The fabric layer consists of SAN networking devices that include SAN switches, routers, protocol bridges, gateway devices, and cables. SAN network devices move data within the SAN or between an initiator, such as an HBA port of a server, and a target, such as the port of a storage device.

HCI Vs. SAN – How to Choose Between the Two

Comparing both the technologies for their respective usages in the field of computer networking and data-centric storage, we conclude that the decision between the two depends on some factors that should be considered. 

When to consider HCIs:

HCI is capable of combined computing and storage devices and should be ideal for small-scale enterprises and their basic storage requirements without any specialists. HCIs also have a better annual growth rate in small-scale enterprises and companies and are becoming more popular day by day. Furthermore, HCIs are: 

  • Easy to manage
  • Economical
  • Easy to maintain

When to consider SANs:

SANs can provide scalability, flexibility, and advanced storage requirements and should be ideal for large-scale enterprises and their storage and computing requirements. SANs are more used for traditional non-converged storage devices and rapidly gain popularity each year. The growth of SANs has increased over 50% in recent years. Furthermore, SANs are:

  • Easily available 
  • Scalable
  • Faster
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